Both sides have struck cooperative tones since Obama’s re-election. Even so, he and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, the GOP’s pivotal bargainer, have spent most of the past two years in an acrid political climate in which both sides have fought stubbornly to protect their constituencies.
Obama and top lawmakers could produce an agreement that takes a serious bite out of the government’s growing $16 trillion pile of debt and puts it on a true downward trajectory.
Or they might reach an accord heading off massive tax increases and spending cuts that begin to bite in January — that’s the fiscal cliff — while appearing to be getting tough on deficits through painful savings deferred until years from now, when their successors might revoke or dilute them.
Historically, Congress and presidents have proven themselves capable of either. So before bargainers concoct a product, and assuming they can, here’s a checklist of how to assess their work:
No. 2 in Hamas says group will not stop Gaza weapons production, smuggling
CAIRO — Gaza’s ruling Hamas will not stop arming itself because only a strong arsenal, not negotiations, can extract concessions from Israel, the No. 2 in the Islamic militant group told The Associated Press in an interview Saturday.
The comments by Moussa Abu Marzouk, just three days after the worst bout of Israel-Hamas fighting in four years, signaled trouble ahead for Egyptian-brokered talks between the hostile neighbors on a new border deal.
Hamas demands that Israel and Egypt lift all restrictions on the movement of goods and people in and out of the Palestinian territory, which has been buckling under a border blockade since the Islamists seized the territory in 2007. The restrictions have been eased somewhat in recent years, but not enough to allow Gaza’s battered economy to develop.
Israeli officials were not immediately available for comment Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. However, an Israeli security official said this week that Israel would likely link a significant easing of the blockade to Hamas’s willingness to stop smuggling weapons into Gaza and producing them there.
Abu Marzouk said Saturday that the group would not disarm, arguing that recent Palestinian history has shown that negotiations with Israel lead nowhere unless backed by force.